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Information About Skin Grafting

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  Skin Grafting

Skin Grafting is a surgical procedure by which skin or skin substitute is placed over a burn or non-healing wound to permanently replace damaged or missing skin or provide a temporary wound covering. Skin Grafts serve a critical function in the healing process for a variety of different injuries to the skin. Certain wounds (i.e. third-degree burns) must be covered as quickly as possible to prevent infection or loss of fluid. In all cases, serious skin wounds that are left to heal on their own can contract. Often a contracting wound will result in Serious Scarring. When the wound is large enough, the scar can actually prevent movement of joints and limbs. Consider some of the following wounds that can require the use of Skin Grafts to help prevent infection and further progression of the wound:

  • third-degree burns
  • diabetic ulcers
  • venous ulcers
  • pressure sores

Skin Grafting is generally not used for first-degree or second-degree burns. Burns that are not considered to be as serious as a third-degree burn generally heal with little or no scarring. There are three potential sources of a Skin Graft. Grafting Skin can be obtained from another area of the patient's body. This procedure is called an Autograft. Alternatively, skin can be obtained from a donor (i.e. another person or cadaver), which is called an Allograft. There are some instances when skin from an animal an animal (usually a pig) is used. This is called a Xenograft. Allografts and Xenografts provide only temporary covering because these Skin Graft types are rejected by the patient's immune system within seven to ten days. When Xenografts and Allografts are rejected by the patient’s immune system they must be replaced with an Autograft.

The type severity of skin damage incurred by a patient can require a distinct Skin Graft type. Thus, depending on the injury and the damage to the patient’s skin either a Split-Thickness Skin Graft (only involve the epidermis and a thin portion of the dermis) or a Full-Thickness Skin Graft (involves both the epidermis and the dermis) may be used. Within both the epidermis and the dermis layers of the skin, there are several other layers. The epidermis consists of an outer layer of dead cells, and several layers of rapidly dividing cells called keratinocytes. On the other hand, the dermis houses the following organs, tissues, and cells within its layers:

  • blood vessels
  • nerves
  • sweat glands
  • hair follicles
  • oil glands
  • connective tissue
  • the protein collagen
  • fibroblasts
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